One year later: Has "Let's Move!" made a difference?

Let's MoveLet's MoveCalling Let's Move! "a new conversation in this country about the health and well-being of our children," First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated the first anniversary of her campaign against childhood obesity on Wednesday by giving a speech at the North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.

"Over this past year, we've seen the first signs of a fundamental shift in how we live and eat," she told the 20,000 member congregation during the event, which was co-hosted by the Ray of Hope Christian Church and streamed live at letsmove.org. "We've seen changes at every level of our society - from classrooms, to boardrooms, to the halls of Congress."

"These changes are happening for one simple reason: because you asked for them," she continued, citing measures like the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids act signed into law last year, initiatives like Let's Move Cities and Towns, through which 500 mayors have pledged to address obesity in their communities, and provisions in the new health care law that require health insurance companies to cover 100 percent of the cost of preventative measures like BMI and obesity screenings. Let's Move in the clinic, another segment of the anti-obesity campaign, encourages doctors to write out "prescriptions" for exercise to reinforce the importance of kids getting at least an hour of physical activity each day.

"Write a prescription not just to patients, but to your entire community," Mrs. Obama urged doctors in a private teleconference on Tuesday, in advance of her speech in Georgia. "Getting kids up and away from the computer or TV sometimes takes that extra little nudge. I know that's true in my household. … I know that whenever you speak, people listen. They listen to you, and you can start a ripple effect across our country with your conversations."

Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the United States. Almost 30 percent of children are overweight or obese, and in African American and Hispanic communities, the number soars to nearly 40 percent. In January, data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, showed that children in the U.S. are becoming heavier as early as 9 months old. A March 2010 University of North Carolina School of Medicine study found that obese children as young as 3 years old show signs of the kind of inflammatory response linked to heart disease.

"The irony is that with all our advances in technology with all those experts and advice-givers out there, it's actually become harder, not easier, to raise healthy kids in this country," Mrs. Obama pointed out in Georgia yesterday.

"Instead of just a few hours of cartoons on weekends, there are entire networks devoted to children's programming. Instead of kickball and jump rope, kids sit motionless, unblinking for hours clicking, typing and texting away," she said. "Fresh fruits and vegetables have gotten more expensive, while convenience foods have gotten cheaper."

"And let's be honest sometimes, as parents today, we are just plain tired," she continued. "We're working longer hours to make ends meet. We're under more stress. We get home after a long day at work and the last thing on earth we want to do is fight with our kids about turning off the TV, or have endless negotiations about what's for dinner."

The consequences of childhood obesity affect more than just children. Right now, 27 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds are too overweight to serve in the U.S. military; the recruits in that age bracket were born back when schools started cutting back on gym class and sports, and the fact that they're not in shape means that they injure themselves more easily and more frequently during basic training. "As a result, the Army is spending millions of dollars a year in medical and dental costs just to get trainees combat-ready," Mrs. Obama said.

Have you noticed a chance in your child's school or in your community thanks to Let's Move?

Also on Shine